In the time of the Ottoman Empire, an elite cavalry known as the Huszars waged war against the Turks. The Huszars were great strategists, both on horseback and on foot, and for that reason were often enlisted as mercenaries by European countries. Riding small, hardy horses, they fought on most of Europe’s battlefields, swiftly scouting the countryside, assessing tactics and clearing a path for the infantry.
The gentleman standing next to me in the photograph is dressed in the flamboyant uniform of a traditional Huszar. This was taken at the Hungarian Consulate during a wine tasting banquet, where he gave a brief account of the Hungarian Huszars. The costume was designed to avert flesh wounds from sabers and swords.
The Huszars served the Hapsburg army during its long reign and played a vital role on the battlefields of Russia, Poland and France. Napoleon is said to have boasted that, if he had recruited more Huszars, he would have won the war.
But the fearless Huszars were not without blemish. They were brazen. They plundered. They drank to excess. They bragged and womanized. But if any foreign military needed the best, they were the best.
When the Civil War broke out in America, Karoly Zagonyi became the chief cavalry instructor for Major General John C. Fremont. Not only did Zagonyi train the general’s cavalry, he also had the cavalry equipped with sabers, revolvers and proper uniforms. Zagonyi’s men helped win many battles fought on horseback, and Zagonyi was eventually named Fremont’s personal bodyguard.
Many other countries used the Huszars’ expertise—Argentina, Canada, Chile, United Kingdom, Peru, Spain and Denmark. After World War II and the advent of modern military machinery, the use of the Huszars diminished.
If you have the time, take a look at these two videos. The first one is longer, the second shorter. Be sure to notice how skillfully the Huszars use their horses.